PETA has congratulated electric car maker Tesla for offering "all vegan" interiors for its Model X SUV. The animal rights group, which is a Tesla shareholder, says it asked the company's CEO Elon Musk about the possibility of using synthetic leather last year, and has since "been working with Tesla" on the project. The option for artificial leather interiors, which includes the seats, steering wheel, and gear shift, is labelled as "Ultra White" on Tesla's website.
Tesla already offers cloth interiors
However, this isn't Tesla's first "fully vegan" car. The company has always offered cloth interiors for customers who don't want to use leather, and PETA has clarified to Business Insider that it's specifically celebrating the more premium option of fake leather. In a report from The New York Times, a spokesperson for Tesla said: "We find that customers enjoy both leather and non-leather options for their Teslas. We are committed to giving customers the ability to build the Tesla that meets their needs and lifestyle choices.”
PETA points out that as well as the ethical concerns about killing animals, the process of producing leather is resource intensive, using 15,000 gallons of water per ton of hides as well as toxic chemicals. For that reason, it might suit the eco-friendly image of electric cars to switch to synthetic interiors. However, synthetic materials also come with their own environmental concerns, and Tesla hasn't specified exactly what sort artificial leather is being used.
For some vegans, though, just having the option is what's important. Elizabeth Peters, a vegan and a Tesla shareholder who first asked the company to stop using leather interiors, told The New York Times: "There’s ingredients in most everything that we see, wear and experience in our daily lives that somehow have utilized a part of an animal, which is unfortunate [...] But if we know, then we can make a choice."